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Dr. Ebinabo Ofrey

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

My journey isn't just about a career transition; it's a tale of rediscovery and purpose. Over two decades ago, I embarked on a path in medicine, dedicating myself to the noble cause of healing. But life has a way of unveiling hidden passions. I found myself drawn to the world of business and marketing, which led me to pursue an MBA in Malaysia.

But the true turning point came cloaked in personal heartbreak. My father, miles away, suffered multiple strokes, and I was powerless to help due to the physical distance between us. The pain deepened when my mother, battling her own health issues, accused me of neglecting my parents. It was a stark realization: in my pursuit of professional success, I had inadvertently left behind those who mattered most.

Yet, this wasn't just my story. I discovered a harrowing truth: as a Nigerian, before you get to the age of 40 years, there is a 75% chance of losing at least one parent to preventable ailments. It is a national heartbreak.

Driven by this revelation, my co-founder and I felt a burning need to rewrite this narrative. We envisioned GeroCare not just as a healthcare solution, but as a beacon of hope. A platform that bridges distances, ensuring that no matter where you are in the world, you can envelop your parents in care and love.

GeroCare was born from personal pain, but it stands as a testament to resilience, innovation and the undying spirit of love. It's not just a business - it's a movement, a promise and a legacy. Over the past 6 years, we have taken care of more than 30,000 older people across Nigeria carrying out over 150,000 doctor home visits. We have a network of 750+ doctors nationwide which cover more than 52 cities.

What is GeroCare’s model and how is care coordinated?

GeroCare is a cloud based hospital that provides the entire spectrum of care to the older population at home. Our mission is to pioneer medical inclusion by leveraging technology to provide access to medical care to underserved segments of people across Africa. We make it extremely easy for Africans inside and outside Africa to subscribe for regular doctor home visits and medical care for their parents and elderly loved ones using a mobile application.

GeroCare operates on a foundation of trust and continuity in patient care. Drawing from my personal experience in treating older patients, I recognized the profound impact of a consistent doctor-patient relationship. This understanding shaped our approach, which involves:

  1. A dedicated primary care provider: Each patient is assigned a dedicated doctor who acts as their primary care provider and becomes an integral part of their healthcare journey. This doctor essentially becomes a part of the patient's family, understanding their unique needs and challenges and visiting each patient in their home. This relationship is so deep-rooted that patients often regard their doctors as close confidants. Unless there's a relocation by either the patient or the doctor, this relationship remains consistent.

  2. Subscription model with additional services: While our foundational model is subscription-based, our revenue stream is diversified. Our physicians visit their patients at least once per month. The consultation is just one aspect of the care we deliver. We also provide medications, tests, specialist reviews and other services. Since patients trust us deeply, we become their primary point of reference for all healthcare needs. This comprehensive care approach not only ensures consistent quality but also forms a significant part of our revenue.

  3. On-demand: Recognizing the evolving needs of our patients, especially during unprecedented times like the COVID pandemic, we introduced an on-demand model. Patients can request a doctor's visit within 24 hours, offering flexibility beyond the subscription model.

  4. In-home delivery: While telehealth is gaining traction globally, we've observed a preference among our patients for physical consultations. If given a choice between a virtual consultation and an in-person home visit, they often opt for the latter. This insight has been crucial in shaping our service offerings.

In essence, GeroCare is not just about providing healthcare - it's about building lasting relationships, ensuring that our patients feel valued, understood and cared for every step of the way.

What significant barriers have you overcome to scale GeroCare across Nigeria?

Our journey with GeroCare has been marked by two primary challenges:

  1. Changing Health-Seeking Behaviors: In many African countries, including Nigeria, there's a prevalent mindset of seeking healthcare only when a problem manifests. However, due to infrastructure limitations, waiting until a health issue arises can often lead to inadequate care. Our model emphasizes proactive healthcare, with doctors visiting patients monthly to detect and address potential issues early. Convincing customers of the importance of this proactive approach, even when their parents seem healthy, was a significant hurdle. I often use the poignant example of my younger brother's father-in-law, who seemed perfectly healthy one morning but tragically passed away by evening. The question isn't whether he was healthy, but rather if anyone was regularly checking on him. We had to educate our customers that the best time to start with GeroCare is when their loved ones appear healthy, ensuring they remain that way.

  2. Building Trust: As a new entrant in the healthcare space, trust was a significant barrier. Imagine being in New York and entrusting a relatively unknown company in Nigeria with your mother's home address and health. To overcome this, we embarked on a trust-building journey. Initially, we collaborated with influencers and community leaders, like pastors, who allowed us to introduce GeroCare to their congregations. Leveraging their credibility helped us gain initial trust. We also showcased testimonials from satisfied customers, especially those in the diaspora, to further build confidence in our services.

While we've made significant strides, challenges remain. However, every success story, every testimonial, acts as a beacon, drawing more people to the transformative care GeroCare offers.

How do you bridge technology adoption challenges, especially considering that the older population might not be as tech-savvy?

Our approach to technology adoption is focused on patient sponsors, who are typically the children, rather than the patients. The beauty of our model is its simplicity for older people. Their primary interaction is a phone conversation with the doctor, who schedules appointments and visits them at home. The doctor utilizes our app to manage the entire process, essentially transforming the patient's home into a virtual consulting room.

In this setup, the doctor is the bridge between the patient and all necessary medical services. Instead of a traditional prescription, the doctor sends a digital request through our platform. This connects to our pharmacy network, ensuring medication is delivered directly to the patient's home. Similarly, if lab tests are required, our network dispatches professionals to collect samples from the patient's residence. For more advanced procedures, like MRI or CT scans, we arrange transportation for the elderly, ensuring a seamless experience.

The elderly are shielded from the complexities of technology. They simply receive care. Meanwhile, the sponsor, regardless of their location globally, is kept in the loop. They're notified when the doctor arrives and leaves, they receive updates about the care received and they handle payments through our platform. Older adults experience the benefits of technology without any direct interaction, ensuring they receive quality care with minimal disruption.

How does GeroCare address the pervasive issue of loneliness among older adults?

GeroCare is more than just a healthcare service. We deliver a holistic approach to older person well-being. Recognizing the profound impact of loneliness on the older population, we've integrated several touchpoints to address this:

  1. Comprehensive Care Model: Beyond medical care, GeroCare offers caregivers, companion service and other support systems. These professionals do more than just assist with daily tasks. They provide companionship, engage in conversations and help foster a sense of connection.

  2. Regular Doctor Visits: From my personal experience treating older patients, I've observed that the regular visits by our doctors often become anticipated social events for them. Many older patients look forward to these visits, not just for medical consultations but also for the meaningful conversations they share with the doctor. They often make notes of things they wish to discuss, ranging from personal stories to updates about their neighbors. These interactions go beyond clinical care, offering emotional and social support.

  3. Encouraging Family Interaction: While we provide caregivers and companions, we also emphasize the importance of regular communication with family members. We understand that life can get busy, but a simple call or chat can make a world of difference to an elderly individual's day.

  4. Personalized Conversations: I've always maintained two sets of notes during my visits: clinical notes and conversational notes. The latter helps me remember personal stories or updates shared during previous visits, allowing me to pick up where we left off. This personalized approach not only builds trust but also ensures that our elderly patients feel seen, heard and valued.

In essence, GeroCare's approach to combating loneliness is multifaceted, ensuring that our elderly patients receive not just medical care but also the emotional and social support they so deeply need.

When you think about the growth and future of GeroCare over the next five years, what excites you the most?

At GeroCare, we envision ourselves as the leading platform for preventive healthcare in Africa, akin to what Amazon represents in the e-commerce space. While our foundation is rooted in home visits, our ambition extends far beyond that. We're evolving into a holistic ecosystem that caters to all the needs of the elderly.

Recently, we've been expanding our offerings. For instance, we plan to introduce a "Neighbor-for-Life" service, where local community members can assist the elderly with errands. We're also developing a marketplace where the elderly can access a range of essential products and services tailored to their needs. Our goal is simple: when someone thinks of elderly care in Africa, GeroCare should be the first name that comes to mind.

Our reputation in Nigeria is a testament to this vision. We're becoming synonymous with older person care and we're building on that momentum. Just last week, we forged a partnership with Clickafix, a renowned service provider in Nigeria. This collaboration will allow sponsors, regardless of their location, to arrange a variety of non-medical services for their elderly loved ones, from plumbing to cleaning and maintenance.

Given the increasing rate of emigration from Nigeria, many are leaving their aging parents behind. GeroCare steps in as the reliable "sibling" back home, ensuring that parents receive the care they need. In essence, GeroCare is not just a service - it's a promise to families that their loved ones will always have someone looking out for them, no matter where they are in the world.

The vision for GeroCare transcends borders and cultures. What truly invigorates me is the universality of our mission. Initially, I described GeroCare as a fusion of technology and the traditional African value of children caring for their aging parents. However, I've come to realize that this sentiment isn't exclusive to Africa - it's a global ethos. Our recent venture into Canada through the Empowered Startups program was an eye-opener. One of our mentors, despite being miles away from Africa, resonated with our mission because he faced the same challenges with his mother right there in Canada. This revelation was profound: the challenges of caring for the elderly are universal.

The world is rapidly advancing, yet a significant segment of our population – older adults – often feels overlooked. While global initiatives speak of health and well-being for all ages, the older population sometimes remain in the shadows. GeroCare aims to bring them to the forefront. As I look to the future, I envision GeroCare not just as a solution but as a movement. A movement that champions the cause of the elderly, reminding the world that technology isn't just for the young. It can be harnessed to enhance the lives of our aging population, allowing them to age gracefully and with dignity.

Who are the people who have really played an inspiring role in your journey?

When I reflect on my journey with GeroCare, one individual stands out as a beacon of inspiration and support: my co-founder, Ajibola Meraiyebu. His strengths perfectly complement my weaknesses, creating a balance that's been instrumental to our success. Our history runs deep as we were roommates in college. His impact on our business has been profound, and I genuinely believe that GeroCare's growth and success would not have been possible without his invaluable contributions.

Is there anything you're particularly proud of which illustrates how GeroCare is making an impact?

At GeroCare, our impact is deeply personal and the stories of transformation resonate with both our team and the families we serve. One of the most touching moments we often witness is the emotional response from parents when they learn their children have subscribed to our service. It's not uncommon for mothers to be moved to tears, not just because of the tangible care they'll receive, but because this gesture speaks volumes about their children's love and concern for them. In many ways, having a doctor show up at their doorstep every month is a more profound expression of love than any words could convey.

Our doctors, too, often go above and beyond in their service. We've had countless instances where timely interventions by our doctors have prevented serious health crises. Families, even those living abroad, find solace in knowing that with GeroCare, their loved ones are in capable hands. Personally, when my father faces health challenges, I'm comforted by the knowledge that our GeroCare doctor is there, ensuring he receives the best care possible.

I often share these stories with my team, especially our developers. They might be behind the scenes, coding away in a room, but I want them to realize the magnitude of the impact they're creating. It's truly heartwarming when strangers approach me, expressing their gratitude, sharing how our services have improved the well-being of their loved ones. It's moments like these that fuel my passion and reinforce the importance of the work we do at GeroCare.

But beyond these individual stories, what drives me is the broader impact we're making. Every time I visit home, I'm reminded of the potential consequences if services like ours didn't exist. I often liken our persistence in advocating for our service to a parent ensuring their child receives necessary medical care, even if it's uncomfortable in the moment. The child might not understand the urgency, but the parent, aware of the potential risks, acts in the child's best interest. Similarly, we've seen the ramifications of neglecting elderly care, and it fuels our passion to ensure that families understand the importance of what we offer.

In essence, GeroCare isn't just about healthcare; it's about love, peace of mind, and the deep-seated desire to ensure our older population lives their best lives.


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